Winter immunity – top tips

Written by Zara Syed
In-house Nutritionist at APPI
MSc, BSc (Hons), DipION, CNHC

It’s easy to get carried away with the excitement and indulgence that comes with the festive season and as a result, we often tend to neglect our health. Come January, many of us feel unwell and run down.

Here are a few simple steps to boost your immunity at the start of the new year. And you can get in touch with Zara for online and in clinic appointments at Wimbledon here.

1. Stay hydrated

The immune system needs water and so does the rest of our body to transport nutrients and flush out toxins. It’s essential that we replenish fluids lost during the day, with further risk of dehydration if you’ve had alcohol the night before. Investing in a re-usable water bottle to keep with you when you’re on the go, can be a really good way to ensure you are staying hydrated during the colder winter months. Top it up with hot or cold water and add herbal tea bags or fruit to make it more interesting!

2. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is famous for its role in supporting immune function and contains powerful antioxidants. Boost your intake through a range of fruits and vegetables e.g. red and green peppers, citrus fruits, kiwi and green vegetables. Pack these into smoothies, soups, salads or if you’re out with friends, order a side of veg with your meal.

3. Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a huge role in the regulation of our immune system and it won’t come as a surprise, that lack of sunlight during the winter months means that you may be at risk of deficiency. UK Government guidelines recommend that we should be taking a supplement (10μg) daily, from September to March. Frequent colds and infections, low mood (Seasonal Affective Disorder), bone pain and fatigue could be signs that you may be deficient. Please speak to your doctor or a nutrition professional to ensure you are including a high-quality Vitamin D supplement with the correct dosage for you. Similarly, including foods such as egg yolks and full fat dairy products will ensure you are getting a small amount through diet.

4. Zinc

Zinc is an important micronutrient needed for many processes in the body, including immune function. Zinc deficiency affects around 25% of the world’s population and may increase your susceptibility to harmful bacteria and viruses. Include foods containing zinc such as seafood, liver, beef, baked beans and poultry. This may be a challenge for those on a vegan or vegetarian diet, in which case I would advise focusing on fortified foods, legumes and whole-grains.

5. Manage stress

Stress is a normal part of life however chronic stress can weaken immune function, increasing susceptibility to colds and infections.

  • Gentle exercise such as Pilates and yoga may exert beneficial effects by reducing the negative impact of stress.
  • Try to incorporate some movement into your day. Get off the tube or bus one stop earlier than usual and walk the rest of the way, go for a walk at lunchtime or at the very least take regular breaks from your desk.
  • Similarly, make space in your day for activities that you know will help you to unwind.